Happy New Year! Merry Christmas! I write to you now from a jet lagged stupor, prepared to report my findings on our pilgrimage to Israel, presented in installments over the next few days. Now that I am outside of Israel, where I can speak freely and not pay a fortune for internet, I am at liberty to write; sorry for the hiatus in my posts.
I made a series of several other observations over the course of the trip. Here are a few:
1) Israel smells nice, to begin with. Though occasionally city sewers set undesirables adrift the air, where the land smells nice, it is really nice. Some form of sweetness I had never before beheld, noticeable even the moment we stepped off the plane. We wondered why American airports can’t make themselves smell like anything except nauseating engine exhaust.
2) Apparently, I have never had hummus before. Or at least real hummus. Israeli hummus is some kind of wonderful in both texture and flavor. I could really go for some right now. I want to learn how to make it.
3) The rule for children in this country seems to be thus: If your child screams, let him. It’s not like he’s bothering anyone. Ahem.
4) Everything costs extra. So few things came free over the course of our trip I found myself accidentally giving folks dirty looks if they asked for even two shekels. I felt bad about this afterward, to be sure. But that’s two shekels to go to the bathroom. I’ve been in other countries where they charged for the toilets, and I didn’t like it then either. Granted, I once paid to use a toilet in Sienna that didn’t even have a toilet seat, so that is definitely worse. But in Israel, every attraction and museum had an admission fee that seemed more expensive than it ought to be. Every hotel came with hidden fees, charging us ridiculous amounts for internet or to use the gym or the phone. So if you charge me for the toilet on top of all this, sorry if I get a bit miffed.
5) I was floored by the beauty and natural diversity of the country. I plan on expounding on this subject in a later installment, but for now suffice it to say that despite the fact that Israel is pretty much the size of New Jersey, it encompasses the range of ecosystems and natural wonders of a much larger area, and smells better than New Jersey to boot!
6) So many places in Israel stand out to me as some of the most peaceful spots I’ve ever visited. It struck me as tragic that so peaceful a place could be the site of so many wars.
7) Breakfast in Israel became a daily conundrum. When breakfast came with our hotel, it would usually consist of a buffet of raw vegetables. There were usually some other things like eggs, white bread, and cheese, but mostly it was vegetables. No fruit, just salad. Salad for breakfast. I don’t mean to sound culturally insensitive, but raw peppers just don’t go down so well in the morning.
8) Floating in the Dead Sea feels like what I imagine a canoe feels as it skims the top of the water. I was once a canoe, though briefly.
9) Eucalyptus trees of Israel smell drastically different than those of the American west coast. I don’t know why I think this is remarkable.
10) They have camel crossing signs. How awesome is that!?! And I did see camels.